The Detroit Red Wings free agent class for this upcoming summer takes away a good chunk of their roster. The team has 13 pending free agents, including eight forwards, seven of which are restricted free agents. The for-sure keepers of these seven were broken down last week. This week we’ll take a look at the others, as well as a handful of pending free agents in the team’s AHL that will need to be re-signed.
The Red Wings have six forwards already inked to NHL deals for next season, leaving a good amount of spots open. And despite a handful of rumors surrounding some of these six, there is still plenty of competition both if the season resumes and for training camp ahead of next season. All seven players looked at today will be at the heart of this competition but are likely to win a spot on a very open, but very hopeful, Red Wings lineup.
Analyzing the Detroit Red Wings Free Agent Class
The Skill Players
The Red Wings claimed Dmytro Timashov from the Toronto Maple Leafs during this year’s Trade Deadline. Due to being claimed so late in the season, he did not get many games with Detroit this season. In five games with the Wings, he averaged just under 12-minutes per game and was a poor 45 percent in his Corsi and Fenwick. Combine that with zero points in those games; the outlook seems bleak.
But outside of his performance, Timashov is only 23 years old. This season was his first in the NHL. Starting with the Leafs this year, he had a minimal role averaging slightly over eight minutes per-night. In this limited role, he managed four goals and nine points. He played his previous three seasons with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. And each season, his performance improved as well; netting 24, 34, and 49 points respectfully through the three years.
Considering that nothing was lost to acquire Timashov, any progress he makes and production he contributes is absolute ‘win’ for management. With his youth and overall inexperience at this level, he has plenty of room to grow. He brings good speed and quick hands to the lineup as well, with a playing style like former Red Wing Tomas Tatar.
Timashov should be re-signed to a cheap, short term contract extension. He is a low-risk, high-reward signing.
Taro Hirose first joined the NHL after his junior year at Michigan State University was cut short. The Hobey Baker finalist forwent his senior season and signed with Detroit in just enough time to end the 2018-19 season with the team. He was immediately placed into the NHL, playing 10 games with the Wings before the end of the season. In those, he wowed fans, netting seven points. This set the bar high for Hirose, with many fans thinking he’d serve a top-six role to start the 2019-20 season. This wasn’t the case, though.
Hirose instead started the year in the middle of the Detroit lineup. After 23 games and only seven points, though, Detroit decided to send Hirose to the AHL where he’d receive top-line minutes and a better chance to grow. Excluding two point-less NHL games in February, Hirose spent the rest of his season in the minors. While there, he netted a strong 27 points in 35 games, making his point as a high-end talent once again. Still, his lack of NHL play holds him down a bit.
Like Timashov, expect to see Hirose extended for a season or two for somewhere near $1 million per season, simply based on his lack of experience.
Evgeny Svechnikov is a former first-round pick of the Wings from the 2015 NHL Draft. He is a young player that shows promise but has had trouble making an impact and getting games at the NHL level. In three seasons playing as a professional, Svechnikov has only played in 20-games for the Red Wings Though this current season was his first back after missing all of 2018-2019 with a torn ACL.
Though his sample size is small, he does not have lousy possession metrics and generally passes the eye test. In his four games this season with Detroit, he had a 55.6 percent in both his Corsi and Fenwick. If those numbers could be maintained throughout the season, he would have been top on the team in Corsi and second in the Fenwick category.
Though maintaining those numbers throughout an NHL season seem unlikely, it does give a decent indicator of his style of play and how beneficial he could be for the team. Svechnikov is still just 23 years old and is coming off a severe injury. Expect management to give him the benefit of the doubt here signing him to a one-year deal.
The Role Players
Brendan Perlini is a former first-round pick (12th Overall) and by far the most experienced player in this group of RFAs, having played 239 career games. Though he does not produce on the score sheet as many would hope based on his draft position, there is no doubt that he has become a serviceable NHL player.
Playing in a third-line role, Perlini brings size and speed to the lineup. He uses both of those attributes to apply pressure and create chances offensively, while also staying strong on defence. His speed allows him to pressure while backchecking and win battles in the corners and along the walls. If he happens to play with the right linemates and get a consistent amount of ice time, there is potential there still for him to be a 40-point player in this league.
Perlini will be 24 years old by the time next season starts, just entering his athletic prime. Signing a player of his talent level, age, and experience cannot be undervalued. A two-year deal makes sense for Perlini. It would allow him to grow with a young team and prove himself to be an integral piece of the rebuild.
Christoffer Ehn is a fourth-line role player for Detroit. He isn’t a player who scores much, but he provides pace and energy. Ehn played in 54 games this season, averaging 10:25 in ice time per game. In that time frame, he was able to muster four-points and was 10th on the team in hits with 59. He was also the fifth-most-used forward on the penalty kill.
These numbers point to his versatility and reliability, but he needs to work on his overall game. He ranks 29th and 30th on the team in his Fenwick and Corsi ratings respectively. With this being his second pro season in North America, there is room for improvement. With a pretty full roster already, Ehn is in for a battle come training camp. Being an RFA, he’ll likely receive a qualifying offer and be brought back on a one-year deal.
Adam Erne is another RFA in a similar situation to Ehn: a role player who doesn’t produce much offensively but brings energy and physicality to the lineup. The difference is that this was his fourth season playing in the NHL, though only his second full season. Erne was one of Yzerman’s draft picks back in Tampa and Yzerman made a late-summer move to bring him to Detroit. So, it’s obvious the new GM has taken a liking to the forward.
In 56 games this season, Erne surpassed Ehn in point production with a total of five points. He was second on the team in hits with 142 while averaging 11:49 in ice time. His possession numbers were poor, though. He ranked 25th and 27th on the roster with his Corsi and Fenwick numbers.
Erne will be 25 years old when the next season starts. Expect to see him back on a one-year deal and competing for ice-time at training camp.
Sam Gagner is the only UFA forward on the list. He was acquired at the trade deadline from Edmonton as part of the package for Andreas Athanasiou. Due to that, he was only able to play in six games for the Wings before the season became postponed. In those six games, though, he managed one goal and played an average of 15:05 per night.
Throughout his career, Gagner has proven to be a versatile player who can win vital face-offs. He can play on the power play and even kill penalties. Gagner isn’t going to light up the score sheet these days. But can chip in with 20 or more points easily over a full season.
Gagner is on the fence to be brought back. He would have to earn his place. But he is a low-risk player to bring back for a year. He could help immensely in a mentorship role within the organization.
Lots of Decisions to Be Made
With the number of players here and their contract situations, it will make for tough decisions this summer. There is also the added fact note of prospects not listed here. Players like Givani Smith, Michael Rasmussen, and Joe Veleno, will be pushing for roster spots as well. All these players make for a problem of abundance, which places the onus on the players. It will drive them to be their best and hopefully lead to a competitive product on the ice in the coming season.